On the final morning we left the hotel at 5:45am to do Stations of the Cross along the route that Jesus might well have walked. Ideally, perhaps, they would be done at noon, as is usual for Lenten Stations at St. John’s and other churches. By noon, however, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where the last stations are done, is filled with visitors and pilgrims making it very hard to be in a group praying meditatively. Also, our last day in Jerusalem was also the last Friday in Ramadan, when hundreds of thousands of Moslems were going to fill the Old City. So we started early.
Early morning embodied prayer of something like the Stations of the Cross has its own power. We can easily feel like the important part of prayer is how we feel during it or what we are thinking about. While those aspects matter, they are generally not as important as showing up and allowing God to work with us, however we are thinking or feeling. Being sleepy and walking a few miles before caffeinated beverages and breakfast makes it harder to eliminate all distractions. But in many ways such distractions give us a deeper understanding of what the original way of the cross was like, with hustle and bustle, soldiers pushing and pulling, women wailing and men deriding, and lots of dull aches and excruciating pains. When Jesus falls on the way to his crucifixion he is probably not thinking about how that stumble could be a metaphor for the spiritual life. As we walked the stations, we were often more aware of keeping everyone together over uneven stone steps, or of staying out of the way of others as we stopped to recite the stations, or even of the monks and nuns that brushed us aside in the middle of our prayers to reverence the stations as they went about their morning business.
On a number of occasions, we were also photographed by Moslems coming for prayer. The Israeli government opened all checkpoints for the day, so that anyone was allowed to enter Jerusalem. Some people came who had been waiting all their lives for such an opportunity. Many of them had little or no idea what the non-Moslem sites were for, or why people were there. But they came to look around, perhaps entering a Christian church for the first time. Our early morning stations were the Christian witness they would receive that day, however little or much they understood what was going on.
|Altar Above Golgotha (Jane photo)|